8 Best Tips for Writing Flawless Legal Documents

February 26th, 2021

Reading time about 13 min

They say if you want to become a professional boxer, you must also become a professional runner; such are the demands of the job. For lawyers, the same applies to writing. No matter which way you slice it, all legal work comes down to some form of writing, so knowing the tricks of the trade is essential.

For most legal documents, the structure and mechanics follow the same pattern so here are the best tips to enhance your legal writing.

1) Listen to Your Client

You can rival Shakespeare or Eminem for linguistic prowess but not listening to your client is akin to the painter working on the wrong house. Take the time to really listen and understand your client’s issue. Then and only then can you draft problem-solving documents. Ask clarifying questions as often as it takes and read as many case notes as you can get your hands on. A full understanding and appropriate representation are the minimum the client deserves.  

2) Build an Outline

You might understand what you’re trying to say but without you there, does your document say it for you? Create a clear structure for your document before getting stuck in the writing. A structure helps even novice lawyers with:

·   Clarifying your thoughts

·   Discarding unimportant or distracting points

·   Making your clear arguments clear

·   Separating points with intelligible headers and sub-headers

·   Following a logical flow

·   Being easily reviewed by senior counsel and officials

·   Creating re-usable templates

3) Leverage Technology

The legal sector can no longer deny that technology and automation software have in many cases surpassed the capabilities of humans. AI support and legal document software have augmented the accuracy and efficiency of producing legal paperwork.

If the tools exist to make your work more effective, use them because otherwise, competitors who do use them will overtake you. The basis of competition in the legal sector is shifting to efficiency and the most responsive and accurate lawyers will transcend the rest.

Pro tip: Utilize a plagiarism detection platform for lawyers to further refine your writing and the authenticity of your written text! Copyleaks plagiarism checker for legal professionals can also help detect cases of copyright infringement. This will help you ensure that there is no duplicate/unauthorized text being used.

4) Never Forget Who You are Speaking To

Consider yourself the chef of legal writing. You should never serve the wrong dish to the allergic meaning don’t serve legalese to non-legally trained stakeholders. Of course, legal documents need to remain professionally inclined but keep aware of the exclusivity of your language. Intentionally or unintentionally complex language can isolate, frustrate and undermine both you and your readers.

5) Be Concise

Avoiding verbosity is essential. Legal writing that includes run-on sentences with several distinct points and excessive qualifying phrases detracts from your case. Put points into several clear sentences where possible. Think of things like an elevator pitch. If you can’t describe it easily, clients and stakeholders will struggle to understand.

Long-windedness does not give the illusion of higher intelligence. Experts take complicated concepts and make them accessible to all. Not the other way around. Conciseness breeds clarity and nothing is more pertinent in persuasion.

6) Use Direct Language

Points 4, 5 and 6 all work in tandem and remain crucial to effective legal writing. Hone your skills at staying in the active voice and avoiding the passive. The passive voice dilutes your message putting the onus on the reader to figure out your message or to agree. Being direct, assertive and active makes your point compelling.

For example:

“I believe my client is innocent” vs “My client is innocent” or “There was a crime committed by this individual” vs “The defendant committed a crime”.

Language makes all the difference in writing and can be the subliminal influencer for document recipients. Make your case in powerful terms with direct strong language.

7) Make Your Case

It seems like a stupidly obvious thing to say but there is a knack to making your case. Don’t flood the document with every plausible point you could make. By including everything you found relevant, you divert attention from the strongest points, persuasive facts, and significant precedent. Including too many minor points waters down the biggest pillars of your arguments.

Construct the case around pillar arguments and drive home the message.

8) Proofread and Edit

There is a reason news editors are senior to writers. They catch all errors, cut out the unnecessary and ensure the clarity of your message. Their job is to take bridge the gap between an article being routine and informative to gripping.

Use all the legal document software you need and be ruthless. If it doesn’t strengthen your message, take it out. The weakest parts of your case are usually the most beatable and give opposition momentum in their case against your client. Go back through each point or dollar amount and make sure the period is in the right place and the pillars of your debate strategy are ordered correctly.

Pro tip: Ensure that your content is original by running the final document through Copyleaks plagiarism checker and be assured that there is no accidental plagiarism! Also, make sure that there are no instances of self-plagiarism!

Conclusion

Treat this as both the conclusion of our piece and the conclusion of your legal document. The conclusion is your lasting impression on the readership. In legal writing, it needs to be the most powerful part of your submission. It is your closing arguments and your chance to sum up the most relevant points of your stance.

Craft a conclusion that erases all elements of doubt delivering certainty that yours is the most credible, believable and reliable position.

Read More: How To Write A Law School Essay.

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